Lots of people like Dr. Oz.
Since he burst upon the scene, following a guest shot on Oprah in 2004, they’ve been hanging on his every word and buying his every product.
But is Dr. Oz a quack? Not exactly. He is a bona fide thoracic surgeon and received his MD in 1986 at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, which is a justly respected school, and we have no doubt that he’s intelligent and logical. But consider this: Dr. Oz’s Bachelor’s degree is from the U of P’s Wharton School in business, as is his MBA. And, apparently, he’s channeled his intelligence and logic into his business, not his medicine.
Though Dr. Oz is still a practicing surgeon, he is much more well-known for his various profitable enterprises and his TV shows, all designed to appeal to his fantasy-absorbing audience. Very little of his enterprises have anything to do with medicine or science, such as his promoting the idea that one can “cure” homosexuality — as if it needed curing — or that one can talk to the dead. Let’s concentrate on just one example: Homeopathy.
Homeopathy, which is surprisingly popular even in these enlightened times, was invented by Samuel Hahnemann in the late eighteenth century, long before the microbial origins of disease were well understood and before mammalian immune systems were understood at all. In fact, before he developed Homeopathy, Hahnemann promoted the idea that coffee beans, not germs, were responsible for many diseases, later abandoning this “cause” and switching to a particular family of fungi.
Hahnemann was aware of the concept of immunity and proposed his own mechanism for its operation. Hahnemann hypothesized that to trigger the body to fight a disease, one need only ingest a substance or combination of substances, most of them poisons, which produce symptoms similar to the particular disease in question. In fact, early on in his research, Hahnemann made himself quite ill on more than one occasion, and poisoned many friends and family members in the process. This, of course, proved disheartening so Hahnemann decided to dilute the poisons to make them safe to ingest. Even today the well-meaning manufacturers of homeopathic “medicine” use Hahnemann’s dilution method, which involves diluting the poisons at a ratio of 100:1, typically, and repeating this several times. If a homeopathic preparation is labeled “5x,” for example, there will be five successive 100:1 dilutions, leaving the solvent, in most cases, without a single molecule of the original, supposedly therapeutic substances. That’s OK with homeopathic practitioners, for they appear to believe that the poisons transfer their crystalline structure to the solvent, never mind the fact that liquids are unstructured or, in Hahnemann’s own words, that shaking the solution transfers “the spirit-like medicinal powers of the crude substances” to the solution. Hahnemann was well-meaning and sincere, and I have no doubt that homeopathic practitioners and manufacturers, most of which are surprisingly loyal to Hahnemann’s two hundred year old pre-medical concepts, are sincere as well. But is Dr. Oz?
We say no. There is no way that Dr. Oz is sincere. Having gone through medical school, he knows full well how the immune system functions and understands equally well that it’s microbes which infect us, not miasms (“derangements of the vital force”). So why does Dr. Oz support homeopathy? You guessed it — it’s money! Dr. Oz is merely pandering to an adoring but gullible public, promoting ideas he knows are false to keep his various web sites and TV shows popular. He’s raking in the dough, and he isn’t using a scalpel to do it.
Art-itorial by Barbara Broido. Visit Barbara’s Doodle Blog for more of her art, design work and socio-political commentary.